Transport Minister visits Stranraer

TRANSPORT minister Keith Brown was left in no doubt as to the concerns felt by the people of Stranraer regarding the future of the railway in the town during his visit on Monday.

But having left without giving any specific commitments for additional investment in the line despite being abandoned by Stena since their move to Cairnryan, councillor Willie Scobie and MP Russell Brown said they were disappointed given the First Minister’s words in November that he planned to prioritise the region’s roads and rail network.

During the meeting the Minister agreed with their request to look into how the Government can improve the line and he said it would be included in the remit of the previously announced task force.

MP Russell Brown said: “We are pleased that he agreed with our request to expand the remit of the task force to include the railway but we want to see him do more. Local people don’t want to see him just pass the buck to another group and we need to make sure the task force doesn’t become just a talking shop.

“It was disappointing that the Minister wasn’t able to give us any specific commitments of additional investment, despite promises by the First Minister a couple of months ago that the Scottish Government would prioritise our road, rail and regeneration. These next few months will be key for the future of Stranraer’s rail link, as the requirements for the new franchise are drawn up. While the Minister tells us there are no plans to close Stranraer rail station at the moment, we won’t be reassured until we see a firm commitment included in the new rail franchise agreement. Unfortunately, the Minister didn’t do anything to allay our fears about their plans for a ‘two tier’ railway that sees investment diverted from our region to the central belt.”

Stranraer and North Rhins Councillor Willie Scobie added: “I was pleased the Minister came to Stranraer, even if he did have to be dragged here. Now that Stena have moved out of the town, Stranraer is in danger of being isolated and local people are really worried for what the future holds. While we welcome anything that will help Stranraer, many people are asking why the Scottish Government waited until the last ferry sailed out of Stranraer before setting up their taskforce. Everyone knew they were moving to Cairnryan and the Government should have had this taskforce operating months, if not years, ago.”